Lakers to play in Chicago on Christmas Day

Kobe Bryant has missed nearly the entire 2013-14 season. His return to health is key to the Lakers' immediate future. But it's anyone's guess whether he can overcome the latest injuries and be effictive again. Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

Kobe Bryant has missed nearly the entire 2013-14 season. His return to health is key to the Lakers’ immediate future. But it’s anyone’s guess whether he can overcome the latest injuries and be effictive again. Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

For once, the Lakers might actually experience a White Christmas. They have played on Christmas Day for 15 consecutive seasons, a testament both to the Lakers’ past success and unmatched brand even amid recently tumultuous years. But instead of playing in the friendly confines of Staples Center, the Lakers will spend their Christmas on the road for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Then, the Lakers will face the Chicago Bulls, facing Pau Gasol for the first time since leaving the Lakers this offseason. Incidentally, the Lakers will then travel to Dallas the following night.

The Lakers will also host Chicago at Staples Center on Jan. 29 at Staples Center, which would likely feature a tribute to Gasol for helping them win NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. That reception will juxtapose the inevitable boos Lakers fans will shower Houston’s Dwight Howard (opening night on Oct. 28) two years after leaving the purple and gold. Or the possible feeling of disappointment when Carmelo Anthony comes to Los Angeles wearing a New York Knicks uniform (March 12) and when LeBron James and Kevin Love don a Cleveland Cavaliers outfit instead of the purple and gold get up (Jan. 15). Speaking of the Cavaliers, Byron Scott will also face the former team he coached for three seasons on Feb. 8, bringing a unpleasant reminder of his 64-166 record there through three seasons following James’ initial departure.

The Lakers have other challenges to worry about, a list far more extensive than anything on Santa’s wish list.

How do the Lakers hold up against a competitive Western Conference that features the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs (Nov. 14 at home, Dec. 12 and Jan. 23 on road), Oklahoma City Thunder (Dec. 19 and March 1 at home, March 24 on road) and Portland Trail Blazers (Jan. 5 and Feb. 11 on road, Jan. 11 and April 3 at home) ? Will the Lakers have bragging rights over their crosstown rivals against the Clippers when they play at Staples Center as both a host (Oct 31, April 5) and visitor (Jan. 7, April 7)? The matchup seems unlikely to provide an NBA Finals preview as it used to, but can the Lakers hold off the hated Boston Celtics both at TD Garden (Dec. 5) and Staples Center (Feb. 22)?

Despite all the uncertainty surrounding the health to Bryant and Steve Nash and a roster featuring some unproven potential, the Lakers could ease their way into the 2014-15 season. They have a home heavy schedule with 10 of their first 17 games at Staples Center. The Lakers also will play 16 sets of back-to-back games, a slight dropoff from the 19 they had last season. But several challenges await. The Lakers have four games in the first five nights. They embark on their week-long Grammy trip with stops in New York (Feb 1), Milwaukee (Feb. 4), Orlando (Feb. 6) and Cleveland (Feb. 8).

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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